New plan for maternity unit

Health chiefs say there is no going back to the way maternity services were provided in Berwick prior to their partial suspension last year.

Instead, officials favour the introduction of a 24/7 on call midwifery-led service where low-risk women are able to deliver at home or at Berwick Maternity Unit.

However, instead of enjoying postnatal care in the infirmary, they would return home after giving birth with enhanced community midwifery support.

The decision was taken in principle by the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s joint locality executive board at a meeting in Newcastle.

The preferred model of care is a unit open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 2.30pm at weekends, with a 24/7 on-call service for low-risk women who wish to deliver there or at home.

Antenatal and postnatal clinics for low and high risk women will continue and there will also be enhanced community midwifery support.

Arrangements will now be made by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to re-open the unit for deliveries as soon as possible.

In reaching the decision the board agreed that women will be discharged based on their clinical need and that there will be no overnight discharges unless a new mother wishes to go home and is well enough to do so.

They agreed that the enhanced postnatal care should include a number of different elements.

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer of NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “We are pleased that low-risk women will soon be able to deliver their babies at the Berwick unit and we hope that people will feel we have addressed some of their concerns.

“We know how important this issue has been locally and I would like to reassure people that we have given it a great deal of thought and consideration.

“It is really important that we do what we can to preserve rural services. As such, we have listened to comments made during the public consultation and have worked with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to explore ways of providing a midwifery-led service that is safe and sustainable and also, we hope, acceptable to local women.